Monday, 26 September 2016

Innovation: Who, what where, when and how? Rahul Arora reflects...

The ALPSP Conference is over for another year and the winners of the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are celebrating. As life gets back to the normal routine we took time to speak to Rahul Arora, Chief Executive Officer of the Awards sponsor MPS, to find out what he thinks about innovation and scholarly publishing.

How would you define innovation?

At MPS, we are now focusing on developing a culture around Disruptive Innovation rather than Evolutionary Innovation. Our team has been following the work of American Scholar - Clayton Christensen. We are inspired by his work and his definition of disruptive innovation –

“Disruptive innovation describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors”. 

To explain the MPS understanding of disruptive innovation: we don’t consider UberX to be a disruptive innovation, since UberX made the market more efficient but did not expand the market. However, one could argue that UberBlack was disruptive to the luxury rental car market.

What part(s) of scholarly communications do you think need to innovate the most? Why do you think that is?

MPS provides platforms and services for content creation, production, and distribution. From our perspective, few market segments (note that the list is not exhaustive), where we foresee disruption where the status quo will be displaced include:

  • Manuscript submission and peer review systems: There have been some “sustaining innovations” at the higher tiers of this market segment but this market segment is ripe for disintermediation or an outside entrant disrupting the status quo. Some publishers have already decided to lead the charge by developing in-house software.
  • Production Management Systems: Having deep and intricate systems have been typically associated with the larger publishers. This market segment is ripe for a disruptive platform that provides deep level of functionality in a competitive manner so that it can be accessed by all publishers, irrespective of number of books and journals published in a year.
  • Typesetting and publishing services: HTML5-based typesetting is well under away. The reliance on InDesign and 3B2 is diminishing. This space has seen a series of innovation but is now ripe for a disruption where publishers don’t need manual touch points but rather publisher platforms speaking to supplier platforms.


What are the most exciting innovations you have seen over the last couple of years that you think will really move scholarly communications on?


  • Smart innovations in enriching and harmonizing content to improving discoverability
  • Movement from document-based workflows to asset-based workflows
  • Digital-first workflows backed by digital sub-processes such as online authoring and peer review; all powered by cloud-based workflow management
  • Global standards across value chain
  • Automation wherever logic can be developed in the workflow including transformations on the fly
  • Embracing open access and developing research communities to demonstrate tangible value

Why were you interested in supporting the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing?

MPS has been growing through our technology business and through acquisitions. Technology services and platforms have no meaning if we aren’t disrupting the status quo. And the underlying principle behind our acquisition strategy is simple --- we aspire to be the most meaningful partner to publishers and recognize that we consciously need to reinvent ourselves to achieve this goal. We can all predict that the scholarly market is ripe for disruption; however, how and when will this disruption take place is something we will have to live through to see. Supporting the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing allows MPS to be closer to the reality of disruption and also support change agents that will help deliver this Disruption.

What do you think the finalists demonstrate about innovation in the industry? 

This years’ finalists showcase a diverse set of innovative thought, but two major themes stand out: collaborative information sharing, and creative dissemination of information:


Rahul with the ALPSP Awards winners

And the winners were... 


Cartoon Abstracts from Taylor & Francis and Wiley's ChemPlanner were announced as joint winners. ORCID were Highly Commended by the judges.





MPS Limited are the sponsors for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. The 2016 winners were announced at the ALPSP Conference 14-16 September 2016. The 2017 winners will be announced at the Conference in The Netherlands 13-15 September.


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